UPDATE: Small Colorado Town Mulls Putting Bounty On Drones In Its Skies
UPDATE: After news broke that Deer Trail, Colo., was considering a $100 bounty to residents if they could shoot down a drone, the Federal Aviation Administration warned doing so could result in prosecution and fines.
In a statement, the FAA said that a drone “hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air,” and that “[s]hooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane.”
Responding to the FAA’s statement, Phillip Steel, the Deer Trail resident who drafted the ordinance, said, “The FAA doesn’t have the power to make a law.”
The small town of Deer Trail, Colo., is considering a dramatic approach to showcase their discontent for the use of drones — offering bounties to residents if they can successfully shoot down an unmanned aerial vehicle.
Located 55 miles east of Denver, the town of 540 residents has proposed the following ordinance:
“The Town of Deer Trail shall issue a reward of $100 to any shooter who presents a valid hunting license and the following identifiable parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle whose markings and configuration are consistent with those used on any similar craft known to be owned or operated by the United States federal government.”
While the legal ramifications for issuing licenses to citizens to target federal property are unclear right now, the act of damaging or destroying government property is a federal crime.
Although the federal government’s rules about drone damage are not considered in the the ordinance, the legislation does set some guidelines for proper drone-hunting protocol.
Drone hunters would need to be at least 21 years old, must be capable of reading and understanding English, and would only be able to use “any shotgun, 12 gauge or smaller, having a barrel length of 18 inches or greater.”
The $25 licenses would be issued anonymously and a background check would not be required.
Phillip Steel, the Deer Trail resident who drafted the ordinance, said that while the proposal is largely symbolic, he hopes the government takes it seriously.
Though Steel told a local ABC news station he has never seen a drone flying over the town, he does not “believe in the idea of a surveillance society, and I believe we are heading that way,” he said. “We do not want drones in town. They fly in town, they get shot down.”
Deer Trail Mayor Franks Fields says he isn’t sure yet how he feels about the potential drone hunting legislation, but said it could be a good economic boost for the town.
“I haven’t made my decision yet. It’s all novelty. Do a little drone fest, get people to come out, have fun,” he said.
Kim Oldfield, the town clerk, agrees. She said that because of the novelty of the ordinance, the town may be able to benefit monetarily by hosting drone hunt festivals.
“We’re the home of the world’s first rodeo, so we could home of the world’s first drone hunt,” she said.
Since the drone hunting permits don’t appear to be limited to just Deer Field residents, some suspect that many people across the U.S. will purchase a permit just for the novelty of owning a drone hunting license.
While some have expressed concern that the drone hunt ordinance may create a local vigilante movement, Oldfield says that likely won’t happen.
“If they were to read it for the title alone and not for the novelty and what it really is, it sounds scary, and it sounds super vigilante and frightening,” he told ABC 7 News. “The real idea behind it is it’s a potential fun, moneymaker, and it could be really cool for our community and we’ve needed something to bring us together, and this could be it.”
Another concern is the safety of the town’s residents. Since federal policy prohibits the U.S. government from using armed drones to kill American citizens in the U.S., some observers have expressed concern that the bigger danger may be errant anti-drone fire.
“These bullets go a long way up when they’re fired,” says ballistics expert David Dyson. “But you don’t know where they’re going to land — there’s always a chance of them causing serious harm or death.”
The town’s seven-member board is scheduled to consider the ordinance on August 6.
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